The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich is a comedy of manners that combines mischief-making and mind-bending plot twists to tell the story of Mrs Rich, a wealthy woman who aspires to rub shoulders with the great and good.
The story follows the quests of two widows that are both in search of two very different husbands. While Mrs Rich is aspiring to find someone that will give her more power and a higher social standing, Lady Landsworth is determined to marry for love.
I spoke to Colin Richmond, who is behind creating the look of the production as the designer. With a lot of theatrical variety under his belt, he is taking on the challenge to bring a lavish feel to the production through the set and costume.
“From a young age I was always making model boxes and creating sets and costumes out of things so I always had an interest in making theatre and I was good at art, English and music and designing kind of combines all of those together,” he said.
Colin has designed for a multitude of productions from Sunset Boulevard to Sweeney Todd and Kiss Me Kate. “It’s funny, I am 36 now and I was lucky because I got such good breaks quite early on, you have to just keep plodding away and working hard,” Colin explained. “The hardest thing is probably the time management and trying to be fresh with your ideas, but it’s great.”
Colin explained how his process tends to change dependant on who he is working with, and what the show is. “I think sometimes the director will very much trust you to kind of just come up with an idea or concept, or you’ll have an initial meeting and then kind of go away and run with it,” he said. “But if you’re working with someone new you get to know them and their process, so it really does vary. You’d read the script, have initial chats, find your thoughts on the whole thing and then make the model and draw the drawings.”
The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich is a grand production and Colin said he toyed with the ideas of maybe going down the root of doing a rich 1980s feel or alternatively more like Chelsea housewives – a bit Merry Wives of Windsor. “The colours are really fresh, vibrant and juicy. It is sort of anachronistic as well but it almost has a world of its own.” he said. “We are referencing a lot of the period with the material cuts and pieces of the beautiful era.”
Not familiar with the play before working on it, Colin hadn’t worked on much in the play’s genre. “I think there are some things that you’d love to do and the beauty of this job is that you don’t really know what you’re going to get offered,” he said. “I think it’s wrong to take a job where you feel like you have nothing new to give it. You invest a lot of time and energy into these things and you have to make it worth your while. Because if you’re bored by it, then everybody else will be bored by it as well, so there will be no excitement around it, but we are very excited about this which is lovely.”
Working in a team, Colin explained how as the designer he works with Chris the costume supervisor who liaises with all the departments to make it all happen. “He is my right-hand man and I feel very much part of a team, I like to invite a lot of opinions because the costume team have to make these things,” he said. “Plus it’s always good to take advice.”
After the initial designing, Colin explained how you have to take a step back and hand the production over. “It is like you have given birth to it and the actors take ownership over it,” he said.
With fond memories of working on Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC in 2013 and 2015, Colin is delighted to be back working with the company. “It is brilliant, when I first came out of college I got a job as an assistant here and I was kind of a guinea pig, and it was so brilliant to work in a theatre this size, working at this scale,” he said. “Learning how each department works with each other and the many-faceted levels that go into working on a show was invaluable, and I owe a lot to the RSC.
“The talent of these people is just extraordinary and to be able to work with them, and alongside them, is just really lovely. It is a very happy place to work.”
The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich runs between 23 March – 14 June at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, tickets and information can be found here.